Moving sustainability from the barricades to the boardroom: Global challenges for the dairy industry

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


In recent years, the livestock industry worldwide has developed a new approach to sustainable production: no longer is sustainability merely equated to an external constraint to production; instead, it is increasingly embraced as a key driver for growth and development. In effect, we are witnessing the mainstreaming of the sustainability concept from the barricades to the boardroom.
However, this consensus on the role of sustainability has led to new discussions and diverging views on what sustainable livestock production looks like in practice, how it can be incentivised, at which speed, and how it should be measured and verified. This societal debate has progressed to a point where it has now got “stuck” on four theses, relating to consumer choices. These theses hinge around:
• The need to reduce consumption of animal produce; especially from ruminants;
• The need to reduce food waste;
• The need to reduce food miles;
• The need to reduce the environmental footprint.
In this presentation, we evaluate these four theses. We find that, while each of these may be valid and indeed be applicable in individual contexts, they are too one-dimensional to offer generic opportunities for progressing the global sustainability agenda. We thus suggest that, before we can find scientific answers for the “universally sustainable development of the livestock sector”, we have to first formulate the right questions. We propose the following four critical questions as alternatives to the aforementioned theses:
• Which food, for whom, grown where?
• What does a circular livestock economy look like in different regions in the world?
• How can the global food system be governed?
• What type of sustainability do we really want as a society?
Whilst these four questions represent grand challenges for the industry, they allow us to search for context-specific, meaningful solutions. They enable us to “start walking” on the path of continuous and agile improvement of all aspects of sustainability, as exemplified by the Dairy Sustainability Framework.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2016
EventWorld Dairy Summit 2016 - Rotterdam, Netherlands
Duration: 16 Oct 201621 Oct 2016


ConferenceWorld Dairy Summit 2016


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